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Plant Profile: Rocky Mountain Beard-Tongue (Penstemon stricta)

Rocky Mountain beard-tongue is a semi evergreen perennial native to western US from southern Wyoming and western Colorado to northeastern Arizona and northern New Mexico, with an isolated population in east central California where it grows with sagebrush and in meadows, slopes, and open areas of  woodlands and forests.  It is a member of the plantain  family, Plantaginaceae, that also includes snapdragon, turtlehead, and foxglove. With  a fibrous root system plants grow 1-3′ tall and form a dense mat of foliage with several stems. The leaves are long and narrow with the basal ones being longer than those on the stems.  In spring, spikes of royal blue to purple flowers rise above the mat of foliage. The tubular flowers are two lipped; the upper lip is two lobed and projects over the lower, three-lobed lip.  Butterflies and beneficial insects find the flowers attractive.  Plants are valued as ornamentals for the garden and are especially good in dry areas of the country.  The genus name, Penstemon, comes from the Greek words pente meaning five and stamen meaning stamen and refers to the five stamens of the plant.  The specific epithet, stricta, is the Latin word meaning tight or close.

Type:semi-evergreen perennial

Bloom: Spikes of tubular two lipped royal blue to purple flowers in spring

Size: 2-3′ H x .5-1′ W

Light:Full sun but tolerates light shade

Soil: Average, medium moist to dry, well-drained;  drought tolerant

Hardiness: Zones 3-8

Care: Cut back stems after flowering to level of foliage mat.

Pests and Diseases: Aphids, grasshoppers, penstemon weevil, slugs, snails, root rot, powdery mildew, leaf spot, rust, blight

Propagation: Seed, division in spring, softwood cuttings in early summer, semi-ripe cuttings in midsummer

Companion Plants: Paintbrush, evening primrose, purple poppy mallow, narrow leaf coneflower

Outstanding Selections: ‘Bandera’